Kitty Hawk Models 1/48 AH-1Z 'Viper'

KIT #: KH 80125
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken

New tool kit. Includes p.e. fret


The Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, that was developed for the United States Marine Corps. The AH-1Z features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. The AH-1Z is part of the H-1 upgrade program. It is also called "Zulu Cobra" in reference to its variant letter.

The AH-1Z completed sea-trial flight testing in May 2005. On 15 October 2005, the USMC, through the Naval Air Systems Command, accepted delivery of the first AH-1Z production helicopter to enter the fleet. The AH-1Z and UH-1Y completed their developmental testing in early 2006. During the first quarter of 2006 the aircraft were transferred to the Operational Test Unit at the NAS Patuxent River, where they began operational evaluation (OPEVAL) testing.

In February 2008, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y began the second and final portion of OPEVAL testing. AH-1Z testing was stopped in 2008 due to issues with its targeting systems. The AH-1Z was later declared combat-ready in September 2010.


Kitty Hawk's new AH-1Z has finally hit the streets and they have provided a very nice kit of this new aircraft. There are four grey sprues and one clear with the clear sprue shipped in its own cardboard box. One of the grey sprues is mostly for weapons. I took a good look at the sprues and found a few minor sink areas near the hub of the rotor blades and a few small ejector towers on a few bits. Nothing major and they will be easy to take care of. The kit also includes a nice photo etch fret that includes all the various screens on the helo as well as seat harnesses for the two seats.

The fuselage is divided into a main forward body and the tail boom. I'm not sure why this was not molded as one piece, but perhaps there are other AH-1 variants that can be done with the base kit. The cockpit consists of two seats with collective and cyclic controls on the side consoles. There re no foot pedals. Both front and rear instrument panels are nicely detailed and you have decals to fit on them if you wish. Also included is the somewhat large amount of side armor for the two seats.

There are two engines to build up and install into their respective compartments that will then fit into the forward fuselage. The forward fuselage has a number of open compartments with separate black boxes and doors as does the engine areas if you are one who likes to add detail. Otherwise many of us will close these up. Both a gun turret and a FLIR turret are included with the FLIR being installed in a separate nose section. Kitty Hawk supplies a large ball bearing which I assume is to be used for nose weight but there is no indication as to where one puts it. I'd load the nose as even helos can be tail heavy.

Each of the main skids is a three piece construct. The winglets will need the holes opened to install the weapons pylons. For those looking for a lot of rods and bearings in the main and tail rotors, well, there aren't any and so building these will be relatively easy. I have to say that I found it a bit odd that Kitty Hawk has you build up the forward fuselage and the boom assembly separately and not join them until almost the last step. It seems counter-intuitive to me. The clear bits are nicely done and all the side windows are separate with the front ones having tabs so they can be displayed open.

The kit offers a plethora of weapons for the pylons including AIM-9L Sidewinders, both LAU-68 and 70mm HAP rocket pods, and Hellfires with optional noses. A load out diagram is provided to show where all this fits.

Instructions are well done and provide underway painting info in generic and FS 595 colors. Markings are for three planes. Two of them are in the current TPS scheme, one from HMLAT-303, the training squadron and the other from an unidentified unit which ten seconds on Google identifies as HMLA-367. The third is HMLAT-303's air show bird with large red areas on the fuselage. A full color painting and markings guide is provided as is a separate stencil placement guide. The two decal sheets are quite nicely printed.


As helos are not my bailiwick, I cannot comment on the accuracy of the kit, but it certainly compares well with the photos I have seen of this aircraft. The kit offers all the detail you would want and I am sure that the end result will be an exceptionally nice model.  


January 2015 

Thanks to Glen and Kitty Hawk Models for the preview sample. Get yours today at your local shop or on-line retailer.

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